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Lawmakers have been wary of Morsi ever since he won Egypt’s first democratic elections in June, replacing the ousted authoritarian Hosni Mubarak. More responsive to Egyptian public opinion, Morsi angered lawmakers in September when he withdrew police protecting the U.S. embassy from a rampaging mob protesting an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad and waited three days before offering a tepid condemnation of the embassy attack.
As a result, Republicans Kay Granger of Texas, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the outgoing chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slapped a hold on an administration plan for a $450 million cash transfer to Egypt to replenish the country’s dwindling cash reserves. They also oppose any additional money for a fund aimed at stimulating private investment in Egypt.
The hold remains in place despite administration appeals to lift it.
The last time Israel mounted a major military operation against the Gaza Strip was in late 2008 and early 2009. Using air, naval and ground forces, the Israelis killed some 1,400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis were killed.
The Israel-Gaza border remained relatively quiet until September, when militants in Gaza stepped up their rocket attacks to more than 600 per month. Armed with more sophisticated missiles from Iran, some rockets have reached as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
In the current round of fighting, the exchanges of fire have killed more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis. Israel’s ground and naval bombardments have not silenced the rockets, and Israeli officials have moved tanks and troops to the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground assault.
President Barack Obama took time out Monday from his trip to Asia to call Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I think the president has been right on in supporting Israel’s right to defend itself,” said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, suggested Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Obama appoint former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy to revive moribund Middle East peace talks. In 2000, Clinton tried — unsuccessfully — to mediate a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.
Emily Cadei and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.